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EETE OCT 2015

Leading by example: Polyera’s flexible displays By Julien Happich A provider of proprietary materials for the design of organic flexible thin film transistors, Polyera is opening a new branch of business and hoping to create its own technology market pull. It is implementing its technology into the Wove band, a truly flexible display wrist band expected to reach consumers by the middle of next year. The Wove band sports a grayscale E-ink display, 1040x200 pixels across a 30x156mm capacitive multi-touch flexible foil, all controlled through Polyera’s flexible active matrix organic TFT backplane. With about five times the surface of a smart watch, the unit can not only deliver persistent ambient information (the E-ink is bi-stable at zero power), but it can also be used to run graphical compositions matching the wearer’s mood or clothing. Prior to final commercial launch, the company is looking for experienced graphical designers familiar with Java for Android, HTML5/CSS3/JS or other graphics tools to explore new use cases and develop new applications and content (or compositions as the company calls it) under its Wove 0.1 prototype program. Under the hood, the bracelet hosts a Freescale i.MX7 Dual- Core ARM cortex-A7 processor, 4GB of storage and 512MB or RAM, a 9 axis motion sensor for gesture-based interaction and a built-in eccentric rotating mass vibrating motor for haptic feedback (all running from a 230mAh battery). A Bluetooth 4.0 radio link supports communication with Android smartphones to download new compositions or get wrist notifications. According to the company’s founder and CEO, Phil Inagaki, this will be the first commercial release of a truly flexible active matrix display that can actually be bent and flexed in the hands of consumers without breaking. “Others like Sony use a matrix of amorphous silicon deposited on a plastic substrate, while Samsung uses polycrystalline silicon TFTs, but being silicon based, these display backplanes are too brittle and not robust enough to withstand multiple flexures” compares Inagaki, “so typically, even when marketed as flexible displays, the devices only have one fixed curvature encapsulated into a curved rigid design”. So is this just a prototyping kit for others to embrace the underlying technology or will Polyera produce this consumer product as part of its portfolio? The company’s initial business strategy was to find partners among display manufacturers to include its proprietary materials and processes into their existing display fabrication plants. But maybe the industry lacked of a good example in order to move ahead. “It takes some time to bring to market these new flexible display technologies with reasonable yields and costs, and for companies who don’t have the know-how about the failure mechanisms of flexible displays and their integration with other electronic components, there is a big learning curve” explained Inagaki. “So with the Wove Band, we’ve actually solved all the issues around designing with flexible displays. It will certainly be a milestone in the industry, and by showcasing our technology in this product, we hope to create momentum”. flexible electronics The Wove Band can wrap its display around a wrist. Inagaki insists this is not just a demonstrator, the Wove will be a mass-produced consumer product sold by Polyera itself. “We’ve been quietly preparing this launch over the last three years. We’ve decided that is we were going to launch a product, we were going to be serious about it, so we are committed to fully develop and commercialize this product as an expansion of our business, with long term support”. As a failsafe option for further product design exploration, the CEO does not dismiss the possibility to rely on crowd funding between now and commercial launch, to get as much consumer feedback as possible on what the band should provide. He may also open the company’s prototyping application program to thought leaders. Asked about colour, Inagaki says his company is already actively developing next generation colour versions of the Wove, most likely with coloured E-ink. Although Polyera has already created fully functional prototypes of flexible colour OLED displays, flexible encapsulation of OLEDs is still a challenge. But more importantly, the CEO highlights that on a low power budget, an emissive technology such as OLED cannot compete with reflective E-ink displays, which makes the latter his preferred choice for always-on wearables. Various compositions showing different use cases. 26 Electronic Engineering Times Europe October 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE OCT 2015
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